“Enzian” is the name of a blue flower (a gentian) indigenous to the alps of Bavaria and Austria.
“Schuhplattler” is a centuries-old Bavarian dance genre in which the men demonstrate their vigor in a raucous but precise “shoe-slapping” rhythm to folk music, alternating with flirtatious figures danced with the women. This dance form has evolved over the last 300 years.
The Schuhplattler style of dance mimics the behavior of the male Auerhahn bird (a large alpine wood grouse), that courts the female by flapping his wings and kicking up his feet around a circle. In the same manner, a Schuhplattler keeps his hands raised and, by slapping his feet and Lederhosen, imitates the flapping of the Auerhahn’s wings. The woman spins around the man, challenging him to “catch” her for the waltz.
We all live in the Seattle area. Our members come from as far north as Granite Falls, as far south as Lakewood (south of Tacoma), as far west as Sequim, and as far east as North Bend.
Enzian Schuhplattler was formed in 1965 by German and Austrian immigrants to Seattle. Its mission is to promote and preserve Bavarian and Tirolean traditions, dancing and costumes from the 1850s to the 1890s and to enjoy international fellowship.
Enzian Schuhplattler is a member of the Gauverband Nordamerika, a federation of Schuhplattler clubs in North America. There are about 80 member clubs, with over 3000 members. There is only one Gau in North America, but there are many Gauverbaende in Germany. Enzian Schuhplattler is the only Bavarian Schuhplattler group in Washington that is a member of the Gauverband Nordamerika.
Enzian Schuhplattler wears a Tracht (traditional costume) from the Lechtal region of Bavaria, a small area about an hour’s drive southwest of Munich, near the Ammersee (the Ammer Lake). The nearest city is Landsberg.
The men’s costume includes black Lederhosen with green embroidery, colorfully embroidered Traeger (suspenders), a white shirt, a green velour hat with a Gamsbart (hat ornament that slightly resembles an old-fashioned shaving brush), split socks, and black shoes. The men also have a more formal costume, which includes a green vest, pale blue silk tie, and gray knee-length socks in lieu of the split socks.
The women’s costume includes a short-sleeved white blouse, a black boned vest fastened with chains (called a mieder), a white shawl, a red pleated skirt, a white apron, white cotton tights, black shoes, a green velour hat with a white plume feather, and traditional Bavarian jewelry. The women’s more formal costume substitutes a pale blue silk shawl and apron for the white cotton ones.
We also have more casual attire, which we wear for some occasions.
The socks emulate the pattern in which the feathers grow on the legs of the Auerhahn bird (alpine wood grouse). It is also more practical, since the foot section wears out before the rest of the sock.
Most of the costume pieces must be imported from Germany, although a few of the women’s garments are sewn in the traditional manner by the women themselves. Our costumes are identical to those worn by Schuhplattler groups in the Lechtal region of Bavaria.
The dances we do include both traditional Schuhplattler dances and figure dances. These dances have been passed down orally through the generations. We also do a few dances that were created in the early 1900’s by the German hotel industry, as well as a couple of folk dances from other parts of Germany. In the Schuhplattler dances, the men plattle (slap their shoes and Lederhosen) while the women spin (either in place or traveling) or do a combination of spinning and other moves. There are a variety of different Plattler patterns. After a 16-measure Plattler sequence, the couple usually waltzes for 16 measures, then there is a longer Plattler sequence, followed by a waltz, another long Plattler sequence, and a final waltz.The figure dances have a variety of flirtatious figures where the men and women dance together. The figure dances also usually include a short Plattler sequence.
The bulk of our performances are in April-May and in September-October, although a few may occur at other times of the year. Most are on weekends, a few are on weeknights, and we occasionally have a performance on a weekday. View our current schedule here on our website.
We practice every Wednesday night, 7–9 pm at the German Haus, 613 9th Avenue, Seattle. We practice year-around except during the holidays; we break from the Wednesday a week prior to Thanksgiving and do not meet again until the second Wednesday in January. Some years, we may also cancel practices in July, since some of our members attend Schuhplattler festivals in July in Bavaria every other year. Our junior members practice with the adult group, but only from 7–8 p.m.
There is no up-front cost to join, but members pay annual dues ($10) and must purchase their own costumes through the club.
You are welcome to attend a practice and become familiar with our club. Prospective members need not already be dancers (we will teach you), but must be physically fit. Please contact us in advance to let us know you plan to attend.